It’s Tech Turkey time.
As we gather with friends and family around the dinner table for a Thanksgiving meal, we reflect on the embarrassing gaffes, flops and downright terrible behavior we like to call Tech Turkeys. And when it comes to 2017 and the tech industry, there was a large rafter of Turkeys in what’s been a hectic, chaotic and exhausting year.
If last year’s procession was like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 2017 was more like a never-ending marching band, complete with loud and discordant trombones and tubas accompanied by a constant and overwhelming drumbeat of awfulness. Is this confirmation that we’re indeed living in the “darkest timeline“?
Speaking of dark, a word of warning: While this year’s list starts out lighthearted enough, it takes a serious turn. The slides go from slightly embarrassing foibles to downright offensive behavior toward the end.
That’s because there’s one ginormous elephant in the room the tech industry can’t ignore: men behaving way more badly than we expected.
If 2017 showcased one thing, it’s that powerful men sexually harassing women is a pervasive problem — and that it’s on a scale we’re just starting to grasp. Hollywood power player Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey (who allegedly harassed men) may be the most high-profile cases, but prominent venture capitalists and startup CEOs were forced to resign amid sexual harassment allegations months before Hollywood got into the story.
It’s a problem that’s reached so many places that women anonymously created a “Shitty Media Men” list to call out egregious behavior by reporters and editors.
It almost makes the rant by ex-Googler James Damore, who argued that women may be biologically unfit to be in tech, seem tame in comparison. Almost.
Beyond sexual harassment, we also saw the rise of fake news in our social network feeds and revelations of a disturbing amount of influence by Russia in the US presidential election and in driving outrage over hot-button issues like gun control, Black Lives Matter and the national anthem.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey have tried to combat the propaganda efforts, but the problem continues to bewilder them. As we’re starting to learn, those trolls are smart and willing to adapt to any countermeasures.
Then there’s Uber, whose litany of problems and eventual shake-up at the top is its own epic. Mostly recently, Uber revealed hackers stole data on 57 million drivers and riders. The ride-hailing company kept the hack under wraps for year, possibly violating an Federal Trade Commission settlement not to mislead users about data privacy and security.
Even Apple wasn’t immune. The internet is still laughing at that odd iOS 11.1 autocorrect bug, and last week Apple said it’s delaying the launch of the HomePod until 2018.
Last, we come inevitably to security, which at this point deserves an annual honorary spot on this list. If not for the string of men accused of sexual behavior, the shoo-in for top Tech Turkey of 2017 would have been Equifax losing half of America’s Social Security numbers — and the complicated way the company attempted to handle the issue. Yahoo disclosing this year that all 3 billion of its accounts were hit in a 2013 attack might have been a close second.
As I said, it’s been a crazy year. But hey, at least there aren’t any exploding phones this time. At least not yet.
You can also take solace in the fact that, well, 2017 is going to be over soon. Here’s to a less Turkey-filled 2018!
But for now, enjoy our mega-sized edition of the lowest points in tech, starting from silly slip-ups to seriously disturbing behavior.
First published Nov. 17, 5 a.m. PT.
Update, Nov. 20 at 2:05 p.m. PT: Adds details on Apple’s 2017 gaffes.
Update, Nov. 23 at 5 a.m. PT: Adds more details on Uber’s bad year.